story and photos by Lauren Leatherby, special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — Fortunately for Razorback fans, fallout from Hurricane Isaac cleared up just in time for Hog devotees to enjoy clear skies during Saturday’s (Sept. 1) season opener against Jacksonville State. The Hogs secured a safe victory, ending with a 49-24 lead over the Gamecocks.
The game was one of “firsts” for the Razorbacks and their fan base. It was the first game with John L. Smith as head coach, Knile Davis’ first game since his ankle injury a year ago, and — perhaps most notable to devoted tailgaters — it was the debut of the Sooie Shuttle.
The group bought a bus in February to renovate into a tailgating road-trip vehicle that doubles as a work of art.
But perhaps ‘renovate’ is an understatement.
The bus now has custom Razorback captain chairs that fully recline, two high-definition TVs, a kegerator with a custom wild boar tap, a surround-sound stereo system and a tracking satellite to watch TV on the road. The ceiling inside the bus is a collage consisting of 12 years worth of photos from previous tailgates by the crew, which also includes Wade Jones’ wife, Kelly, and Sand’s wife, Melissa. The bus also boasts showy lights and can shoot smoke from the front of the bus at the press of a button.
They were doing work on the bus as late as Thursday before the game
“When we were all done and stepped back to look at it, I think we all wanted to tear up a little bit,” Jones said.
As much fun as it was to tailgate outside of Razorback Stadium, Jones is looking forward to away games even more.
“There’s nothing like traveling,” he said. “We have an open-door policy for Razorback fans on the road. We aim to foster a united front, especially when we’re outnumbered.”
Fans seemed optimistic about John L. Smith in the role of Arkansas head football coach, and the stands and skyboxes were crowded at kickoff. Quarterback Tyler Wilson gave fans a promising start to the season, setting the school record for passing yards in a season opener and furthering his chances at being a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Next week the Razorbacks will face the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks in Little Rock’s War Memorial stadium.